January 2020 marked the beginning of an event that would forever change the lives of all Americans and the world. Even prior to the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the US, the World Health Organization had already reported that a mysterious illness was sickening dozens of people in China. I recall watching and listening to the news in amazement during those early days of the outbreak. Most people did not know what to think, and as leaders struggled to come up with answers, we did what we always do in times of crisis: reach out to each other.
I received and sent more text messages to friends than I had in a long time. Some of these friends I had not been in touch with for quite some time. I called my mother daily and participated in group text messages with my brothers. Something stirred in me during this crisis, and I felt a need for connection and to connect, greater than I had felt for many years.
Subsequently, elected officials from all over the United States were issuing orders for people to stay home and minimize their in-person contact with others. We were being told to social distance, quarantine, and isolate. Suddenly, those things which were afterthoughts became the things that we realized we had taken for granted: a friend’s hug, a lover’s caress, a laugh shared at the bar or the neighborhood pub, a conversation with your stylist, a joke with your barber, banter with your coworker, and even the scolding of your professor.
It was the thing that we complained of not getting enough of, but that which we are now sick of: solitude. Alone time was not all that it was made out to be, especially in the face of an existential crisis, and even less when it was compelled. Nonetheless, in a nation where most people are overworked, underpaid, unrested and unappreciated, this moment offered a rare opportunity to step away from the routine that is the daily toil of American life.
Finally, the doctor’s advice to take some time off, work less, and connect with family could be adhered to, and it could be done without the feeling of guilt which so many employees feel when they take time for themselves. Though the circumstances are difficult, and uncertainty abounds, we should not miss the opportunity that this moment presents—sleep in, reconnect with a high school friend, play board-games with your little ones, unplug from the demanding ritual that is work. Don’t regret not having made the best of this opportunity when it ends.